Sunday, June 12, 2011

no resolution

I've been an undisciplined meditator for about 4 years now. Every other week or so, I meditate with group at Shambala Meditation Center in Berkeley, and there is always a reading on Buddhist practice that we discuss after the 45 minute meditation. The last reading from Pema Chodron's Living With Uncertainty was about resolution. She wrote that as humans, we are always reaching for resolution, but resolution does not exist. This immediately caused a stir among the over-achieving Bay Area types who typically attend this meditation session, all of us quite comfortable with the idea that hard work will bring results, then resolution, quickly followed by happiness. The writer went on to say we don't even deserve resolution, but something better than that, which is mindful awareness. When it comes to mindfulness, I'm still batting in the Little League. But the concept of no resolution is something I grasped immediately.

Pottery is all about no resolution, which is why many ceramic artists are driven slowly crazy by the medium. It's difficult to accept no resolution. For me, that means nothing I make is perfect, shit is always falling apart, the work is never done, and there is always something more to learn. I have intellectually understood this about pottery for quite a while now, but practicing acceptance without resistance is exercise that gets me all sweaty. I get there every once in a while. Meditation helps. So does an ice-cold cocktail. With apologies to Pema Chodron, I've reinterpreted some of her writings to address the potter-warrior:

A potter accepts that we can never know what will come out of the kiln. We can try to control the uncontrollable by following the glaze recipe exactly or firing the kiln to the same temperature each time, always hoping to get a perfect result. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. This not-knowing is part of the adventure. It's also what makes us afraid of opening the kiln and wish we majored in computer science so we could be making money writing apps for smartphones instead of spending our days alone in a dusty studio. If we find ourselves in doubt that we're up to being a potter, we can contemplate this question: "Do I prefer to grow up and accept what comes out of the kiln, or do I choose to live and die in fear of what comes out of the kiln?"

Thursday, June 02, 2011

anxiety is futile

This weekend I will be selling my work at Sunset Magazine's headquarters in Menlo Park for their annual "Sunset Celebration Weekend". They are doing a special thing with Etsy and invited myself and a few other Etsy sellers to show their work, as well as giving us a free booth, which is quite generous. I wasn't too worked up or concerned about the show, I thought I would make a few special things and just bring what I have. Then, I looked at the Celebration website, watched the video they have up, and realized there will be thousands and thousands of people at this event. Tens of thousands.

So, I start to stress out. All of the sudden I'm concerned I won't have enough work, or the right kind of work. I've been playing around with a planter concept that I was going to introduce at the Clay and Glass Festival in Palo Alto in July, but I decide I have to bring it to Sunset, it's the perfect venue. I spend part of a day riding my bike out to Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco to buy the perfect plants for my little planters-- which haven't even been fired yet-- and wind up getting a flat tire out in the middle of nowhere and I have to walk my bike over a mile to get to a BART station. I also have been wanting to make these wall hangings-- again, the perfect Sunset customer thing-- and I spend three days trying to cut the pieces, get it to the right level of dryness to work on it, and keep missing my window or messing it up in some other way.

Meanwhile, I had plans to leave town for 5 days to go see my grandma, a two hour drive from the nearest airport and so far out that there is no nearby wifi connection or other computer access. Around the time that I was packing my bags and making a mental list of all the things I would have to accomplish before I left, and another list of all the things I would have to accomplish the second I got back, I realized I was completely insane.
  1. There was no way I was going to be able to bring all the new stuff I wanted to bring, and
  2. even if I did manage to pull it off, it wouldn't change anything anyway.
I would still want more: better work, the right kind of work, less of this, more of that, blah blah blah. There was no point to all of this round and round with myself in the studio, because I would never be satisfied anyway, so what was the point of all my anxiety? I went to my grandma's and (pretty much) forgot about it. When I got home, I even took Memorial Day off. And in the end, I only managed to make the few special things I planned in the first place, which are in the kiln right now. And if you see me at the Sunset thing this weekend, be sure to tell me that everything I managed to bring is beautiful, and buy something while you are at it!